/ 8 March 2024

Editorial: Loudly condemn homophobia

Gay sex has long been taboo in conservative India — particularly in rural areas where homophobia is widespread.
Homophobia is a plague that must be condemned, vigorously and without hesitation, at home and abroad, in our social values and our legislation. (AFP)

Advancing an LGBTQ+ agenda — whatever that might mean to the murky state bureaucracy — could soon earn you up to five years in prison in Ghana. 

The Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, recently passed through parliament, tightens the existing ban on gay sex to include harsh punishment for simply identifying as homosexual. 

The bill is with President Nana Akufo-Addo, who has said that he will wait for the resolution of a supreme court challenge before signing it into law.

The severity and potential for human calamity of the bill means the international community cannot afford to be coy on the issue. We must condemn this attack on freedom and dignity.

We live in what is being increasingly articulated as a multipolar world; a departure from the Western — and specifically American — global order. It’s a moment that promises immense potential for the Global South. 

More importantly, it is an opportunity to return agency to millions of people who have been robbed of that right by historical circumstances.

But, as we embark on that future, we must be unimpeachable in the way in which we treat one another. 

As this publication is produced in South Africa, we have the privilege of living in the only African country that has legalised gay marriage — and one of the few to legislate against discrimination. 

Alarmingly, homosexuality is still illegal in 31 nations on the continent.

On ordinary diplomatic issues, our stance is usually to exercise caution in the demands we place 

on our neighbours. 

Guy Scott, Zambia’s diplomatically clumsy, but vastly entertaining, former vice-president, had a famous disdain for South Africa, comparing its actions to the way the US operates in Latin America.

“I hate South Africans,” he admitted. “That’s not a fair thing to say because I like a lot of South Africans but they really think they’re the bee’s knees and actually they’ve been the cause of so much trouble in this part of the world.”

However, on this issue, we are steadfast. It is not cultural imperialism to demand that all people on the continent are able to live a life of dignity and without judgment.

Which is not to say that South Africa is perfect itself. The consequences of homophobia — such as corrective rape — still permeate our headlines with disconcerting frequency. The painful lived experience of many LGBTQ+ people is a shame on our society.

Homophobia is a plague that must be condemned, vigorously and without hesitation, at home and abroad, in our social values and our legislation.